In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the State’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the head of State security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen. With shades of Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Alif the Unseen is a tour de force debut—a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, religion, technology and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.
About G. Willow Wilson
G. Willow Wilson is the author of the graphic novels Cairo, named a Best Graphic Novel of the Year by PW and Comics Worth Reading; Air, nominated for an Eisner Award, and Vixen, winner of the Glyph Comics Fan Award for Best Comic. Her most recent comics project is the relaunch of Mystic with artist David López. Her first non-graphic work was the memoir The Butterfly Mosque, a Seattle Times Best Book of the Year.
Magic Aside, Even Genies and Demons Need Wi-Fi
The New York Times Book Review – June 24, 2012 (Excerpt)
In an unnamed emirate in the Persian Gulf there lives a young man with Harry Potter potential. He calls himself Alif, for the letter in the Arabic alphabet, but that’s not his real name. It’s the Internet moniker he uses for his work as a hacker, protecting his clients from censors and the secret police. Alif is uncannily good at this. He’s not a boy wizard like Harry, but he works magic just the same.
So does G. Willow Wilson, the graphic novelist who has dreamed up Alif and his amazing adventures. Ms. Wilson has not set out to copy J. K. Rowling’s books or anybody else’s; she has her own fertile imagination and fanciful narrative style. But as an American convert to Islam who divides her time between the United States and Egypt, she has an unusual ability to see the best of both worlds. In “Alif the Unseen” she spins her insights into an exuberant fable that has thrills, chills and — even more remarkably — universal appeal.
Alif is 23, and he’s got girl trouble. He is in love with an aristocrat named Intisar, though his mixed lineage is a problem. “Indian and Arab blood had merged pleasantly on his face, at least,” Ms. Wilson writes. But he would not pass muster with Intisar’s family, so he cannot win her. They are married only furtively, having signed “a stock marriage contract Alif found on a Web site that catered to Persian Gulf men seeking to cleanse the sins they planned to commit elsewhere.” That document is worth nothing once Intisar tells Alif that she is engaged to somebody else. [Read the full article...]
‘Alif the Unseen,’ by G. Willow Wilson
The Washington Post Book Review – August 2, 2012 (Excerpt)
G. Willow Wilson’s marvelous first novel, “Alif the Unseen,” takes events similar to those of the Arab Spring, adds a runaway computer virus, an unconventional love story and the odd genie to create an intoxicating, politicized amalgam of science fiction and fantasy.
An American-born journalist, Wilson is a convert to Islam who’s written eloquently about religion and politics in numerous publications and a memoir, “The Butterfly Mosque.” She also penned the award-winning graphic novel “Cairo” and the comic series “Vixen.” These various literary enterprises dovetail in her new book, which also manages to get in a few amusing nods to “Star Wars” and uses Philip Pullman’s irreligious novel “The Golden Compass” as the springboard for a heated, protracted discussion of the power of words to change the world.
That debate begins early in the novel. Alif, 23, lives in a modern, unnamed city in an unnamed emirate. (Alif is his screen name, and the first letter of the Arabic alphabet.) The son of an absent Arab father and a Hindu mother, Alif is an online mercenary who provides cover for various Web sites run by a “coterie of bloggers, pornographers, Islamists and activists from Palestine to Pakistan.” At the novel’s outset, he’s more Han Solo than hacktivist: “Alif was not an ideologue; as far as he was concerned, anyone who could pay for his protection was entitled to it.” [Read the full article...]
App for the Ancients - ‘Alif the Unseen,’ by G. Willow Wilson
The New York Times Book Review – August 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
In her 2010 memoir, “The Butterfly Mosque,” G. Willow Wilson told the story of her conversion to Islam, charting her transformation from child of atheist parents to Boston University-educated undergraduate to faithful Muslim with an Egyptian husband and an apartment in Cairo. Wilson wrote of the contrast between East and West, and of feeling compelled to keep her religious beliefs secret. “In the West,” she observed, “anything that must be hidden is suspect; availability and honesty are interlinked. This clashes irreconcilably with Islam, . . . where the things that are most precious, most perfect and most holy are always hidden: the Kaaba, the faces of prophets and angels, a woman’s body, Heaven.”
It is thus unsurprising that secret identities form the axis of Wilson’s fast-paced, imaginative first novel, “Alif the Unseen” — a book that defies easy categorization. Is it literary fiction? A fantasy novel? A dystopian techno-thriller? An exemplar of Islamic mysticism, with ties to the work of the Sufi poets? Wilson seems to delight in establishing, then confounding, any expectations readers may have.
Alif, her hacker protagonist, is a 21st-century cyber-gun-for-hire. He provides technical services to pornographers in Saudi Arabia, Islamic revolutionaries in Turkey and bloggers in Egypt, concealing their identities and hiding their locations from the authorities in Riyadh and Ankara and Cairo. He doesn’t discriminate politically: “Alif was not an ideologue; as far as he was concerned, anyone who could pay for his protection was entitled to it.” His greatest allegiance, at least initially, is to the freedom of information. [Read the full article...]
UnBound: Battle of the Half-Angels
The Nephillim Chronicles – Book One by Ronnie Massey
Justin and Theo are just normal teenagers with their teenage problems, until the day they meet their biological fathers, Michael and Uriel, two of the few remaining archangels. They learn, they are nephillim, the half human offspring of angels, and they learn they are not the only ones. In the days of old, nephillim walked the earth. Now heaven’s misfits may be all that stands between mankind and the wrath of Lucifer and the Fallen. But how will a handful of teenagers react when they find out, not only are they not human, but they are the most powerful soldiers in heaven’s army? How will they deal with their newly found powers? And will they be able to stop Lucifer?
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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